Easing development on ARM: Building customized debug and trace solutions for multi-core SoCs

Chinese Version 中文版: 简化ARM平台上的开发:针对多核SoC构建自定义调试和跟踪解决方案

A study recently carried out by Cambridge University found that the global cost of software debugging has risen to the princely sum of $312 billion every year, and that developers spend an average of 50% of their programming time finding and fixing bugs (read the full story here). Divide that massive sum by 7.1 billion people on the planet and it works out at $44 per person. Put another way, it’s enough to buy everyone in the world a Raspberry Pi!

Furthermore, the trend for increasing complexity in SoC design (see graph below) means that this problem will only take up more resources in terms of time and money going forward. It is an issue that has given SoC architects and system developers’ headaches for years.

ITRS 2007 SoC Consumer Portable Design Complexity Trends

With that said, a well-thought out debug and trace solution for your SoC can help manage the increased complexity by providing the right hardware visibility and hooks. Software developers can make use of this key functionality to develop optimized software in a timely manner with reduced risk of bugs. Each of the following 4 key use-cases (see picture below) can be addressed for your SoC design with a customized debug and trace solution that allows for:

  • Faster SoC bring-up
  • Easy and quick software debug
  • In-field analysis and postmortem debug
  • System optimization via profiling, event synchronization

ARM CoreSight SoC product is designed to offer a comprehensive solution that can be tailored to meet specific requirements. The CoreSight SoC-400 allows you to:

  • Design for large systems with multiple cores through use of configurable components
  • Maximize debug visibility using a combination of debug components
  • Use IPXACT descriptors for all components to automate stitching and for testbench generation
  • Support different trace bandwidth requirements for complex SoCs
  • Accelerate design and verification through example subsystems, testbenches, test cases and necessary verification IP components
  • Support multiple hardware-debug models for multiple use cases

When all of this is put together in a wider context, ARM CoreSight IP gives design teams a real advantage through its innovative debug logic that reduces design development and software debug cycles significantly. Furthermore, if we think of debug as solving a murder through the use of backward reasoning, then trace is the video surveillance that pinpoints the culprit. Trace is invaluable as it provides real-time visibility into errors, dramatically cutting down design cycles and iterations.

I recently conducted a webinar on how to build an effective and customized debug and trace solution for a multi-core SoC. Register here for free to access the webinar recording.

There is a corresponding White Paper that goes in to a lot more detail on the ARM Debug and Trace IP page.

The White Paper provides the following:

  • High-level steps on building a debug and trace solution
  • Recommended design and verification flow
  • Advantages of using SoC-400 at each stage of your development process
  • Pointers to further information and useful references

Dwight Eisenhower may not have lived until the age of semiconductors, but his quote of “No battle was ever won according to plan, but no battle was ever won without one” rings true in the context of debug subsystem design. Understanding debug and trace hardware features and capabilities is key to building a solution to meet YOUR specific requirements. The paper discussed some of the key design decisions faced by architects.

Stay tuned for more upcoming exciting news about ARM CoreSight IP or sign up for ARM TechCon 2014 to see it for yourself! TechCon will be the first time that members of the public will be able to demo the new design environment for building debug and trace subsystems. This makes it even easier to configure and integrate ARM CoreSight IP within a large system, and will help users cut down on that $312 billion global debug bill. If you have any questions or comments about ARM CoreSight IP or this blog, please write them below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.